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Washington, D.C. Mayor Plans Wide Release of Police Body Camera Video

Updated on August 14, 2015

Police Body Cameras Create Privacy Concerns

D.C.’s mayor is setting the District of Columbia up for possible legal disputes that pit privacy against government accountability under a plan she announced in August 2015 to make more police body camera video available publicly.

Washington, D.C. would make more police body camera available for public viewing than any other city nationwide under the plan, according to a report in The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net)

However, the city is likely to incur millions of dollars in new expenses in fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests from persons who want to see the video.

Mayor Muriel Bowser originally planned to block the video from the public when the city embarked on a project last year to place 2,000 of the body cameras on police officers. She said privacy and the risk residents would be reluctant to call police if they might be filmed meant the video should not be made public.

She changed her mind as a result of recent high-profile police shootings.

Nationally, we have all seen too many instances where video footage proved to be invaluable, Bowser said in a statement. That’s why we are committed to providing every patrol officer with a camera.

Bowser’s plan for deciding when the video could be released is based on case law rulings that define places where people have a reasonable expectation privacy.

In essence, they have few rights of privacy in public places. They have greater privacy rights in their homes or workplaces.

Anyone who interacts with police on sidewalks, their vehicles or other public places could view the body camera recordings at a police station within 90 days. Video involving sexual assault or domestic violence would be shielded from public viewing even if it was filmed in a public place.

Prosecutors, police internal affairs personnel and city auditors would get access to the video for investigations and court evidence.

Still unresolved in Bowser’s proposal is how much of the video would have the audio muted to avoid releasing personal identification information.

Also unresolved is the extent to which Bowser’s plan will force courts to more closely define a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Police Body Cameras Create Privacy Concern

Police body cameras create privacy concerns but also help to hold police accountable for their actions.
Police body cameras create privacy concerns but also help to hold police accountable for their actions.
Washington, D.C.'s plan to publicly release police body camera video is raising privacy concerns while the mayor cites the more important issue of accountability.
Washington, D.C.'s plan to publicly release police body camera video is raising privacy concerns while the mayor cites the more important issue of accountability.

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      Big E 24 months ago

      I think that black people would be more respectful and trust the police if they appear to be black. Is it possible?

      Robert Downey Jr in the movie Tropic Thunder did it. John Howard Griffin did it and wrote a book called black like me. Rachel one drop Doezel kind of did it. It looked like a glorified tan. They need a dark chocolate tan. Color contacts for whites who do not already have brown eyes and a wig or just shave your head.

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      Tom Ramstack 24 months ago

      It's funny but I don't know how practical that idea might be. I'm just wondering whether better police department rules on racial profiling might be at least part of the solution.

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      Big E 24 months ago

      I think they should take all the white police and disguise them as black police. I think that black skin would be a shield for the police. Nobody would mess with the police if they were black.